During my junior year at university, I had a major operation on my right knee. While I had recovered by the end of the year, I wasn’t sure I was up to driving the 13 or so hours from the university in Southern Indiana to my home in Northern Florida on my own. I vaguely remembered that my mom had a cousin who lived around Atlanta, which was just past the halfway point. Normally quite reserved, even shy, the real need of finding a place to stay on my journey back gave me the courage needed to contact this cousin. I was a little nervous, but it ended up going very well and I stopped there many other times on my drives back and forth. My weakness and need for help caused me to seek him out; our family connection ensured he responded favourably.
My need for help later drew me to seek out other family members: Saints Louis and Zélie Martin. On 1 December 2012, my threenager’s (Vianney) baptism day, we received his diagnosis of neonatal gallstones. Suddenly we were overwhelmed with specialist appointments, a special diet, medication, fights with insurance, and the possibility of surgery. His lab results were bad enough around the age of 6 months that we were actually referred to the surgeon. Naturally I was worried and felt utterly helpless. An acquaintance suggested I seek the intercession of (then) Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin.
As with my mother’s cousin, I had a vague memory of St Thérèse’s family name being Martin, and so a hazy idea of who these people were. I hadn’t “met” them, and wasn’t even very familiar with St Thérèse, but I knew I needed help, and so I prayed. Vianney’s next labs were better (not normal, but better), and the surgeon decided it was better to postpone surgery indefinitely. Three years later he still hasn’t needed it yet. The Martins had been there when I needed their help.
Again, like my experience with my mother’s cousin, I grew closer to the Martins and sought them out repeatedly. The next year I found great need of them. This time Vianney was doing well, but my eldest child, Anthony, was not. Since moving to Florida he had developed Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS – not to be confused with the pharmacy), and it was getting worse. He’d ended up in the ER frequently, with a couple of overnight hospital stays. Episodes were becoming more frequent, and our medical coverage had just decided to stop covering the only pediatric GI doctors and pediatric geneticists anywhere near us. This time it was close to the Martins’ feast day (12 July), so my friend suggested a novena to them. She also tracked down someone local to me who had first class relics of St Thérèse, and a cloistered convent with first class relics of Sts Louis and Zélie. We prayed the novena, prayed with the relics of St Thérèse, and prayed with the third class relics of Sts Louis and Zélie and St Thérèse that the nuns were kind enough to send. My son wasn’t healed, but we were able to change medical coverage to get him into the doctors he needed, and the doctors were able to find medicines that have largely stopped his episodes.
From that point, I frequently talked to the Martins and got to know them much better. When I discovered I was again pregnant, I frequently came to them. I was still breastfeeding Vianney, and it was very important to me that I continue since his medical issues made it more important for him to continue. I learned that Zélie had been unable to breastfeed her own children, and so I talked to her about my own fears of not being able to breastfeed Vianney as long as he needed. I prayed with the relics often, as well. Just like getting to know a family member, I got to know these members of my Heavenly family, and determined I had to honour them by naming my child for them. After all, I considered them to be household fixtures by that time, beloved family members who were always welcome. Thus when my daughter was born, healthy and happy, we knew she was to be named Zélie.
Just as with my mother’s cousin, I never knew how much I both needed and loved these family members until I met them. I love knowing that I can turn to various family members in Heaven when I need them. I love knowing that God delights in having us help each other, and helping through others so that we must truly be a family. I look forward to many more encounters with the Martins, and with others.